I’ve paid close attention to country names during my many years of combing through access logs of Twelve Mile Circle readers, looking at various patterns and trends. I’m not sure what drew my particular attention to the names of nations containing the conjunction AND. It was probably one of those days when multiple instances appeared by chance, offering something beyond the ordinary rate of occurrences. By my count there were a total of six of these nations. I examined three of them for today’s article and I’ll discuss the remaining three in a follow-on post. These will be presented in alphabetical order because it seemed as good a pattern as any.
The mere existence of these nations brought a number of questions to mind. Couldn’t their founders come up with a single name that represented the collective? How did they decide which name came first, was it a sign of importance or what? I decided to focus on the junior partners in each arrangement because they deserved a little extra attention, being stuck at the tail-end of the nations’ names for all those years.
The Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda shared an intertwined history. Barbuda had a very small population so it would have been a poor candidate on its own when the United Kingdom began to spin-off various colonial possessions. It made sense to append Barbuda onto Antigua to form a single nation. No decent collective name described the set. I supposed they could have played around with Leeward Islands or Lesser Antilles, although those described larger arrays of islands aligned with several colonial powers. Antigua and Barbuda was good enough.
Both islands had been spotted by Christopher Columbus who bestowed their names, Spanish for Ancient and Bearded. Those were odd choices. I’ve never seen an island with a beard. Nonetheless that’s what happened and the names stuck throughout the centuries. The native Carib inhabitants were particularly fierce and it took almost 150 years for anyone to establish a colony on Antigua. It was the English who finally found success. Early in its history, Christopher Codrington established a sprawling sugar plantation with the labor of African slaves, helping to spur Antigua’s growth. He needed to provision his huge Antiguan estate so he and his brother leased the island of Barbuda: "They were granted the first 50 year lease for Barbuda by King Charles II on 9 January 1685. The rent ascribed to the lease was ‘one fat sheep yearly if demanded’."
Thus, Antigua and Barbuda forged a bond from the earliest days of colonialism. This relationship remained intact when independence arrived in 1981. Antigua still dwarfed Barbuda in population and economic activity, and was divided into several parishes. Barbuda became its own single unit. It had barely fifteen hundred residents, most living in the sole town of Codrington (map), compared to the nearly one hundred thousand residents of the nation as a whole. It made sense for Barbuda to play second fiddle.
I decided to generally sidestep the complex historical situation of the two namesakes forming Bosnia and Herzegovina. After all, these lands fell within the Balkans. They very term Balkanization described segmented small states that fought amongst themselves, either on the Balkan Peninsula or more generically. The breakup of Yugoslavia near the end of the Twentieth Century allowed old hatreds to reemerge. Ethnic groups fought for position aligned with ancient grudges. Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of several new nations that rose from the tattered scraps of the former Yugoslavia, although not before armed clashes, bloodshed and ethnic cleansing burned across the land. The current Bosnia and Herzegovina came out of the Dayton Peace Accords of 1995 and subsequent negotiations in Paris.
Even its overall construct was confusing. The present nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into two nominally autonomous regions. One was the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the other was Republika Srpska. That’s right, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a sub-unit called the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Someone living in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina also lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina, however someone living in Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t necessarily live in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I examined the second banana, Herzegovina, a little closer. There didn’t appear to be a clearly defined boundary for Herzegovina in present Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was somewhat amorphous in historical terms too. Generally it fell at the southern edge of the nation along with its unofficial capital at Mostar. Herzegovina had been around for a long time though, dating back at least to the Fifteenth Century. Herzog was a heraldic title in the German language adopted to this corner of the Balkans, equivalent to Duke in the English language. Herzegovina meant nothing more than the "duke’s land."
Mostar had a similarly simplistic etymology. The Ottomans under Suleiman the Magnificent built a bridge over the Neretva River in the Sixteenth Century. It was an amazing bridge with an exaggerated arch like something from a fairy tale. The bridge earned a name over time, the Stari Most, meaning Old Bridge (map). Those who protected the bridge were called mostari, or bridge keepers. The town where the bridge crossed the river became Mostar, the old bridge town. Stari Most survived through the ages until 1993 when Croat army forces destroyed it during fighting that erupted as Yugoslavia died. The current bridge is a reconstruction.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Kitts and Nevis sat due west of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean Sea, about forty miles (65 kilometres) away. No nation in the Americas had fewer citizens, barely fifty thousand. Despite its proximity to Antigua and Barbuda, the history of Saint Kitts and Nevis differed considerably. Spanish, French and British powers all controlled these lands, sometimes cooperatively and more often in forceful opposition. Britain eventually won that struggle and the islands remained solely in British hands beginning with the Eighteenth Century. Britain placed the two into a forced arrangement along with the island of Anguilla for governance purposes. None of them really got along with each other. Anguilla managed to extricate itself in the 1970’s, so Saint Kitts and Nevis remained joined when the United Kingdom granted sovereignty in 1983. Tensions continue to exist between the two islands even today as they plod along in an arranged marriage, with Nevis occasionally making overtures of separation.
Nevis would be a highly unusual nation. It had only twelve thousand residents and precious few resources other than tourism and a budding tax haven for individuals and companies hoping to hide their assets. I focused on this island way back in the very early days of 12MC in The Point of Five Nevis Parishes in 2008. It held a rather fascinating geo-oddity. The island formed roughly an oval with its five parishes meeting at a common point atop a volcano at its center, Nevis Peak (map). Each parish formed a pie wedge and theoretically one could climb to the top of Nevis Peak and stand in all five parishes at the same time.
I supposed I should note that Alexander Hamilton was born on Nevis, perhaps a point of interest to fans of the Broadway musical Hamilton. From an unlikely beginning on Nevis, Hamilton would arrive in New York for an education, work his way onto the staff of General George Washington during the American Revolution, support the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, become the nation’s first Secretary of State, and then die after being shot by Aaron Burr in a duel. That was quite a pedigree. His image also adorned the U.S. $10 bill although there was talk of replacing him a few months ago. The success of the musical may have been sufficient to save Hamilton from that fate. What a strange turn of events.
Appalachia described more than a physical geography, it described a proudly self-reliant people who’d lived within these hills and hollows on their own wits for more than two centuries. I mentioned some of my perceptions after I visited Kentucky in 2013. It would be all to easy to reduce Appalachia to unfair hillbilly stereotypes, however the reality was considerably more complex as I searched for dominant themes. Multiple books have been written on each of these subjects. I wished I’d had time or space for something more than a few short paragraphs.
Coal was everywhere. We passed uncountable collections of rusting mining equipment, faded United Mine Workers of America union halls and mountains completely shorn of their tops. Coal underpinned much of the regional economy. The fortunes of Appalachia bobbed with the price of coal and it was down a deep hole as we drove through. Blame the Chinese economy. China’s slowdown dampened an insatiable hunger for coal. Think of places left behind, robbed of their middle class prosperity, and we witnessing them as we followed our twisted track. Many settlements nestled along the valleys felt downtrodden, and poverty never seemed distant even in the nicer parts of town. A slight drizzle and overcast clouds followed us for much of our drive, only heightening the effect.
We passed a building made of coal in the heart of Williamson, West Virginia (map). It housed the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce. It was closed.
Coal had to find a way out of Kentucky or Virginia or West Virginia, and that happened over rails. Every river gorge had a companion railroad line, pulling parts of Appalachia away a rail car at a time. Train whistles carried a wistful tune, a constant companion especially at night when sounds echoed down valleys on the wind. I finally made it to the Princeton Railroad Museum outside of Bluefield, West Virginia (map). I had better luck this time than my last visit about a year and a half ago when it was closed. The museum filled two floors a former depot of the Virginia Railway, a line that stretched four hundred miles during its heyday, from the Appalachian coalfields to the port of Hampton Roads near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.
Bluegrass music got its start in the heart of Appalachia, rooted in Scottish, English and Irish folk traditions carried by immigrants who arrived in the 18th Century. The region only recently began to capitalize on this storied heritage. Virginia established The Crooked Road, as an example, a trail through the rural southwestern corner marked with waysides and venues important to this indigenous musical tradition. I’d hoped to stop at some of those places. Unfortunately we drove through on a Sunday in mid-March and they were universally unavailable either because it was too early in the season or because it was a day of rest.
We did stumble upon a political rally on the West Virginia side of the border with Kentucky completely by chance when I veered away from the highway to capture a new county. It was a pity the band played mainstream Country rather than Bluegrass. I might have stayed a little longer than a few minutes if it were Bluegrass and if we didn’t already have a long list of places we needed to see that day.
The Appalachian states roiled in conflict during the American Civil War, 1861-1865. Virginia clearly sided with the Confederacy. Part of Virginia split to form a new state, West Virginia, aligned with the Union. Kentucky became a border state and fell within Union control early in the war. Nothing was ever that simple in Appalachia, however. People picked sides regardless of residence, sometimes splitting loyalties even within families. We passed a marker in Kentucky near the Virginia border that mourned an unknown Confederate soldier (map). He passed through as the war concluded, probably on his way home, only to be ambushed on the side of the road by anonymous assassins. Local townsmen buried him at the spot and later planted a rosebush to mark his grave, although he could not be identified and his family never learned his fate.
Violence returned in the early 20th Century as exploited coal miners began to unionize, a movement called the Coal Wars or the Mine Wars. One of the more significant clashes took place in a town we visited, Matewan, West Virginia. It was best known as the site of the Matewan Massacre. Earlier it also stood at ground zero for the Hatfield and McCoy feud. An undercurrent of violence ran deep.
I considered that moonshine verged on stereotype, however the area seemed to embrace its rebellious image at nearly every museum or exhibit we encountered. Appalachia had a long history of illegal alcohol hidden in remote backwoods, of corn liquor distilled one step ahead of law enforcement, of fast cars flying down country lanes, of secret stashes and tax evasion. Often this served as a romantic metaphor for the independent nature of people who lived in isolated communities beyond the normal reach of authorities. Moonshine probably continued to trickle from the mountaintop stills for all I knew, although a bigger drug problem seemed to have pushed it aside recently.
Breaks Interstate Park had a particularly nice example of a moonshine still on exhibit. (map)
Breaks Interstate Park also featured another historical artifact of more recent vintage although it wasn’t marked and few people knew about it, probably because it didn’t really have that much significance outside of Virginia’s local politics. I remembered the details. It happened in 2006 as Senator George Allen ran for reelection. His campaign stopped at Breaks where he delivered a speech to loyal supporters. A tracker for his opponent had followed the campaign for several days, recording every move. Allen must have finally reached a breaking point because he referred to the tracker, a man of South Asian ancestry as "macaca," a derogatory slur based on a Portuguese word for monkey. The tracker captured Allen’s quote on video, and from there it hit the mainstream press, going viral. Allen lost the election to his opponent, Jim Webb, and with it his presidential ambitions. In Virginia politics this came to be known as the "Macaca Moment."
I knew the incident took place at one of the picnic pavilions at Breaks Interstate Park, although I didn’t know which one. I took a photograph of the most accessible pavilion as a proxy to memorialize this event (map).
The true salvation of modern Appalachia may be tourism. Its rich heritage and natural beauty would seem to be considerably more stable than the price of coal. It also seemed so completely untapped in many places we saw while we wandered. People would flock to these spots if they were more well known and more accessible. Efforts have been made, of course, and sometimes they showed up in unexpected places. We stopped for lunch at a scenic covered bridge in Virginia (map) and I looked up to see the letters L-O-V-E formed strategically in front of the bridge, only visible from a certain angle. It was part of a the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s highly successful Virginia is for Lovers campaign. I thought it was rather clever how a tree represented the letter V.
Notions of endless horizons came to mind as I prepared for an Appalachian Loop. We would cross mountaintops, dip into hollows and follow valley flatlands along tumbling rivers amid early signs of spring. This journey promised stunning scenery in a little-visited and often under-appreciated rural preserve. People who ventured into Appalachia as tourists usually came in summer. Nobody would be silly enough to come in March — nobody — unless they wanted a reasonable chance of miserable weather, or they had an ulterior motive like I did. Some of the places surely must see crowds later in the year. Not in March. That was just the way I liked it; 12MC zigs when everyone else zags.
West Virginia State Capitol
I’ve been to Charleston three times in as many years. The city offered an odd hybrid of small town feel with urban amenities, and fewer than a quarter-million residents in its larger metropolitan area. Yet, it was West Virginia’s capital and largest city. I mentioned our Charleston plans to acquaintances and they nodded heads approvingly. South Carolina should be so nice at that time of year, they said. Then I noted wryly that it was the other Charleston, the one in Appalachia, and waited for their confused expressions. I rather enjoyed that.
We arrived on a Friday afternoon at what should have been the height of Rush Hour and barely slowed down, a nice change from terrible traffic back home. Charleston sat along both sides of the Kanawha River, with tough rocky terrain hemming it in. Yet beside the river where the city sat, there was hardly a hill to be found (terrain). It was flat. This fascinated me during every one of my visits, driving hours through mountains and arriving at a city as flat as a tabletop.
The dome of the state capitol building (map) rose over the riverbank, this photo taken from the far side of the Kanawha River at dawn from the campus of the University of Charleston. We got an opportunity to tour the capitol complex and the state museum later in the day. I’d recommend the museum, by the way. It was extremely well done.
Scenic views filled our dashboard multiple times along the route, simply driving around. However I knew nothing about the overlook atop Bob Amos Park in Pikeville, Kentucky until 12MC reader "Andy" suggested it. The precipice perched high above what was officially called the Pikeville Cut-Through (map). Pikeville, like Charleston, hugged the relatively level lands along a river. The town followed a U-shaped bend on the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River. The river used to flood into Pikeville’s streets and homes occasionally because there wasn’t anywhere else for the water to go when it rose. That was simply a hazard of living within a narrow Appalachian valley. People in town simply endured it for the first hundred and fifty years.
Pikeville Still has it’s U-Shape while US Highway 23 Runs Straight
The mayor came up with an audacious plan. Why not simply cut through a mountain and remove the U-shaped bend, and straighten out the river? It sounded crazy although the Army Corps of Engineers picked it up in 1973 and finally finished it 1987. A marker at the site described an effort to remove 18 million cubic yards of earth, "the largest engineering feat in the US and second in the world only to the Panama Canal." Now a highway, a railroad and a river passed through the cut instead of downtown Pikeville. Meanwhile the town earned some nice parkland where the river once flowed, plus an artificial oxbow lake, and a River Drive (terrain) no longer crossing a river.
The overlook gave excellent views of Pikeview and the Cut-Through.
Them’s the Breaks
Reader Andy also suggested Breaks Interstate Park. The interstate portion of its name came from its location, crossing the border of Virginia and Kentucky. The two states offered a single highland experience, cooperatively. Breaks seemed a bit more confounding, providing a name both to a park and to a town just outside of its limits. Once again an on-site marker offered an explanation: "The name ‘Breaks’ was derived from a break in Pine Mt. created by the Russel Fork of the Big Sandy River as it carved a 1000 ft. deep gorge on its way to join the Ohio River." That actually made sense.
The park offered several distinct scenic vistas. The one in this photo was called Stateline Overlook (map). I’d actually like to return to Breaks Interstate Park someday when the weather is nicer. We barely scratched the surface of what would be available at warmer times of the year.
The View that Got Away
It rained as we approached Bluefield, a town bisected by the border of Virginia and West Virginia. It rained the only other time I visited Bluefield so I guessed the town had it in for me. Still, I’d heard good things about its East River Mountain Overlook and I felt optimistic as we drew closer. Then I noticed low clouds brushing against nearby mountains. We still drove to the top — one never knows when clouds might cooperate or not — and discovered a great white wall of icy fog. I’m sure it would have been a lovely experience. Not this time.
That was far from the only opportunity for impressive views so we pushed father along Virginia’s Appalachian spine the next morning. That’s when we entered the Alleghany Highlands north of Covington and I took the photograph above (map). It was a worthy consolation prize.
Falling Spring Falls
A little farther down the path, still within the Alleghany Highlands, crashed Falling Spring Falls (map). It certainly deserved an award for convenience, within easy eyesight of US Route 220 and adjacent to convenient parking. That was my kind of waterfall, a single 80 foot (25 metre) drop with no physical effort required. Even so I overcame my inherent laziness and scrambled down a path to get a photo from the bottom. I wasn’t quite sure if that was allowable. It felt ambiguous. A fence separated the parking area from the falls although visitors could circumvent the barrier easily enough with a short walk, and no signs prohibited it. The path seemed well-trodden. I figured it was an "at your own risk" activity so I went for it. No harm no foul, I supposed.
On the final day we pushed into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley on the way home, a rolling plain sandwiched between Appalachian Mountains and the Blue Ridge. It featured one of my favorite topographies: karst. Wherever one finds karst one also finds limestone, and water bubbling through limestone dissolving it. That meant caves. I’ve toured caverns in many different places and I’ve always thought that some of the best could be found along this strip of Virginia. However, I’d never been to Shenandoah Caverns before (map). We had a little extra time, It fell directly along our path, and even the kids loved caves, so why not?
Nobody said that a scenic vista couldn’t be subterranean.